Wednesday, October 28, 2009
While Army Warrant Officer Class 2 Mark Boardman is helping to improve the infrastructure in Helmand province, his brother, RAF pilot Flight Lieutenant Richard Boardman, is flying overhead in the Tornado GR4, providing tactical reconnaissance to troops on the ground.
WO2 Mark Boardman, aged 36, is in the Royal Engineers. He is currently based at Lashkar Gah with the Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team where for the past six months he has been working as part of a multi-national group to improve everyday life for Afghans; from constructing schools to installing an oxygen generator in a hospital that supplied oxygen for 20 beds.
"The effect you can have on ordinary people's lives is massive. The highlight of my tour was enabling a contract to improve Bost Airport. Its development will create local jobs and improve trade, and in so doing help with Afghanistan's reconstruction."
Flt Lt Richard Boardman, aged 35, is from 14 Squadron, based at Royal Air Force Lossiemouth, Scotland.
While the Tornado jet he flies over Afghanistan is capable of delivering a wide variety of weapons including Brimstone and Paveway IV with breathtaking accuracy, it is in the role of tactical reconnaissance in which this aircraft excels.
Using RAPTOR (Reconnaissance Airborne Pod for Tornado), the aircraft can provide high resolution images from distances in excess of 25 miles (40km), allowing intelligence to be gathered unnoticed. The aircraft's intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance role is vital in the battle against deadly improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
Flt Lt Boardman said:
"Supporting the troops on the ground is the key reason why we are out here and, for me, that is what makes this tour rewarding: being able to identify IEDs, preventing our guys from getting killed, and being there when needed to provide close air support for troops engaged with the enemy."
Both brothers went to the Thomas Hardye School in Dorchester. WO2 Boardman joined the Royal Engineers in 1989, straight from school. He said:
"I was in the Army Cadets and always wanted to join the Army; whereas for Richard, it was the Air Cadets and a life as an RAF pilot."
Flt Lt Boardman joined the Royal Air Force in 1997 and was the first pilot to fly with RAPTOR, trialling it in the Middle East in 2002. When an aircraft is required for close air support, the pilots sometimes have to scramble and get airborne within minutes. He said:
"It takes me back to the Battle of Britain era, running to your aircraft and taking off moments later; it is the reason why I joined in the first place!"